Efficacy of regular sauna bathing for chronic tension-type headache: a randomized controlled study

J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Feb;21(2):103-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2013.0466. Epub 2015 Jan 30.


Objective: Chronic tension-type headache (CTTH) is a chronic syndrome characterized by frequent headache occurring more than 15 days per month. The intensity and duration of headache pain can be very distressing and disabling on an individuals' well-being. The purpose of this study was to examine the applicability of sauna bathing as a new method of treatment for reducing pain in patients with CTTH.

Methods: Thirty-seven people who fulfilled the International Headache Society criteria for CTTH were randomly assigned into two groups. The control group (n=20) received advice and education while the intervention group (n=17) received the same advice and attended a sauna regularly for 8 weeks. Reductions in subjective pain were determined using the numerical pain rating scale (NPRS). Disturbance in sleep, depression as assessed by Beckman Disability Index (BDI), and Headache Disability Index (HDI) were measured.

Results: Mean change in headache intensity significantly differed between the sauna and control group by 1.27 (95% confidence interval, 0.48-2.07; F=10.17; df=1, 117; p=0.002). There was no statistically significant change in duration of headache or improvement in sleep, depression, or HDI between the sauna and control groups.

Conclusion: Regular sauna bathing is a simple, self-directed treatment that is effective for reducing headache pain intensity in CTTH.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Steam Bath / adverse effects
  • Steam Bath / methods*
  • Tension-Type Headache / physiopathology*
  • Tension-Type Headache / therapy*